One Father's Extraordinary Journal of Living Longer with ALS
An Update on my Intubement

The clock is ticking, which is both good and bad. While I am still wrestling with the idea of having a piece of silicon dangling from my gut, I am looking forward to spending far fewer hours of my day trying to expel food and phlegm from my airway with the cough assist machine. I am employing the concepts that I write about so often in this blog on a daily basis in order to adjust to this upcoming intrusion to my body. Every day I envision what it will be like having this new appendage, carefully focusing my thoughts on the gratitude for the increased time and comfort it will bring to my life.

Recent weeks have been filled with the details of my exit from hospice. We have been busy replacing equipment to reduce costs, learning more about the tube, and searching for a new afternoon aide. As January 19th draws closer, I wrestle not only with anticipation of the procedure, but also with the loss of my friend and aide, Lloyd, as a daily presence in my life. While I know he will continue to visit now and then, it won’t be the same as having his reliable support every Monday through Friday. For me, this is the most difficult part of the transition. His caring service and his unwavering belief in my ALS recovery have been an important contributing factor to my successes in living with ALS.

The search for Lloyd’s replacement is ongoing, but so far with no results. With less than a week to go, the pressure is on to find someone, and to remain calm in the process. Stay tuned! Meanwhile, if anyone knows any good jokes about feeding tubes, please share them.

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In my last post, I described some of my reservations about getting a feeding tube. A few readers responded with helpful information, and I am grateful for their input. Since that post, however, I discovered an even greater concern in consultation with a doctor who was prepared to perform the procedure on me. The new concern was the possibility that, because of my limited breathing capacity, I might wind up with a tracheotomy, a situation that I had once feared more than death. Now, faced with the more imminent possibility of death, and not ready to go, I was stealing myself to the possibility, and hoping for the best.

Then, last week I spoke with a surgeon who has been successful at performing this operation on ALS patients for 10 years with a procedure that he designed. It is less invasive than what others are doing (nothing down the throat), and he has never had to trache a patient. We are planning to have the procedure done on January 19. It’s a tough call to give up tasting, chewing and swallowing food, but I won’t miss the hours of coughing and gagging over my meals, and trying to pull food particles out of my trachea and bronchial tubes with a cough assist machine.

There is a glitch, however, and it’s a big one. Once I have this procedure, insurance will no longer cover hospice. This is a good news/bad news scenario. While I would just as soon be out of hospice after 5-1/2 years, it means the loss of a lot of resources. There is equipment like my hospital bed and breathing equipment that insurance will still cover, but not at 100%. There is support staff like my social worker, Liz Cohen, who has been very helpful over the years. Most importantly, I will lose 20 hours a week of assistance from my friend and aide Lloyd Smith, who has been a loyal and caring companion for 5 years. His loss is both an emotional one and a potential financial puzzle, because we can’t afford to replace him, and that will put an additional burden on my live-in aide, Jimmy. So in addition to the emotional and psychological challenge of learning to live with a tube hanging out of my stomach, we also have some financial issues to grapple with. Another adventure begins in my continuing saga of living with ALS!

Each time this disease presents me with a new challenge it tests my resolve to stay focused on my advances vs. my setbacks, and the achievement of an ALS recovery. Every once in a while the challenge is so significant that I have to work extra hard at staying in the moment, and remembering all that I have to be grateful for. This is one of those times. One of the things for which I am deeply grateful is that my readership continually reinforces the notion that somehow the sharing of my nightmares and how I handle them helps them with their own. Please keep the comments coming to let me know whether this blog is continuing to fulfill its purpose, and thanks for reading.

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